The July issue of Consumer Reports had an interesting article (available on-line) on DIY will-drafting software, specifically, Quicken WillMaker, LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer. The researchers created three different estate planning scenarios — nuclear family, blended family with a special needs child and single with a life partner– then plugged the facts into the software (to the extent that the software allowed them to do so). The resulting documents were then reviewed by Prof. Gerry Beyer, one of the top trust and estates teachers in the country. The best will, which was produced by WillMaker for a nuclear family, was considered good overall, but the software also provided legally incorrect information about whether yet-unborn grandchildren could inherit. Otherwise, the results were adequate at best, and in at least one case, produced a will that was, in Prof. Beyer's words, "a gold mine for probate litigators." What's the takeaway? That these programs may be cheaper than a lawyer, but they are inadequate for all but the simplest situations. They won't catch the nuances and problems which an experienced estate planning attorney will identify. Last, the documents produced can result in some very unintended, unpleasant and likely expensive consequences that won't be felt until after you are dead
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